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New Yorkers demand justice for Indian diplomat’s housekeeper

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Domestic workers protested outside the Indian consulate in New York on Friday, calling for justice for a housekeeper allegedly mistreated by a Indian diplomat and demanding an end to slavery.

More than 30 workers and their allies took part in the spirited but peaceful protest on a sidewalk outside the mansion house used by the Indian government in New York.

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Slavery has to go!” chanted the group of mostly women wrapped up against the cold in hats and puffer jackets on behalf of the maid identified as Sangeeta Richard.

“Free, free domestic workers! End, end slavery!”

They called on the Indian government to recognize that the housekeeper had been “verbally abused” and called on all countries to create minimum legal standards of work for maids.

They held up homemade placards carrying slogans such as “does immunity protect human rights violations?” “justice now” and “hold diplomats accountable, justice for domestic workers.”

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“There are diplomats trafficking domestic workers all over this city,” shouted one of the organizers. “It’s been happening for years with impunity.”

“We demand that the Indian government recognize that her rights were violated. We demand respect and protection for the family of this worker in India,” said another.

India on Friday angrily brushed aside fresh efforts by the United States to defuse the row over the December 12 arrest of Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general in New York.

She was taken into custody and released on bail for allegedly defrauding a visa application, lying to US officials and underpaying her housekeeper.

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Revelations that she was stripped by US Marshals and subjected to a body search have caused outrage in India, whose government wants Washington to drop the case and offer an apology.

The protesters condemned that Khobragade was strip-searched, but said it was a disgrace that, in one of the richest cities in the world, a housekeeper was paid as little as $3.31 an hour.

They called for justice for the maid, including a fair trial and compensation, and an end to labor trafficking.

India is trying secure full diplomatic immunity for Khobragade by shifting her to its UN mission in New York, although such a move needs State Department approval.

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One of the protesters, Meches Rosales, told AFP that she estimated around 70 percent of domestic workers in New York City suffer from some kind of problems related to their employers.

“I would never survive on $3.31 an hour. Enough is enough. We need to end exploitation,” she said.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Critics lament as 126 House Democrats join forces with GOP to hand Trump ‘terrifying’ mass domestic spying powers

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Privacy advocates and civil liberties defenders are expressing outrage after the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night voted down a bipartisan amendment designed to end, as one group put it, the U.S. government's "most egregious mass surveillance practices" first revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In a final vote of 253-175, it was 126 Democrats who joined with 127 Republicans to vote against an amendment introduced by Rep Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would have closed loopholes in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that critics charge has allowed the NSA to abuse warrantless surveillance capabilities and target the emails, text messages, and internet activity of U.S. citizens and residents. See the full roll call here.

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Pilots, including Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, tell US Congress more training needed on 737 MAX

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US pilots called Wednesday for enhanced pilot training on the Boeing 737 MAX before the aircraft is returned to service after being grounded worldwide following two deadly crashes.

The pilots -- including Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, who famously landed a damaged plane on the Hudson River in New York in 2009 -- pushed back against the aviation giant's assurances that pilots will only need to review the 737 MAX modifications in a computer program.

Daniel Carey, president of the Allied Pilots Association, told a congressional panel he was encouraged by changes Boeing made to a flight system seen as a factor in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes that killed 346 people.

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Shelling on American interests threaten Iraq’s fine line between Iran, US

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A nearly week-long barrage of anonymous shelling attacks on American interests across Iraq are intended to signal Iran's long reach and "embarrass" Baghdad amid spiralling US-Iran tensions, observers say.

The incidents were not claimed but largely originated from areas where Shiite-dominated armed groups loyal to Tehran and deeply opposed to Washington have free reign.

Starting Friday, mortars and rockets have rained down on the Al-Balad and Taji bases, the Baghdad military airport, and a military command centre in northern Mosul -- all sites where US troops and army equipment are present.

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